WEST ORANGE, NJ – Former Philadelphia Eagle special teams captain Vince Papale was your typical American hero in the early mid-1970s. After playing a couple of seasons with the Philadelphia Bell of the World Football League, Papale turned into an NFL star a walk-on player with the Eagles.
Despite the glory of being an NFL player and theme behind Disney’s 2006 hit movie "Invincible," Papale doesn’t feel like a hero anymore. Instead, he uses his fame to endorse the real heroes of the United States: the Wounded Warriors.
“I’ve been to Walter Reed Hospital and visited the amputees and those with significant, significant injuries,” Papale said at last week’s press conference to announce the annual Wounded Warrior Football Challenge. “We owe these guys and women, a debt of gratitude for all that they do. When they asked if I’d like to participate in this, Dick Vermeil told me last year what a blast he had, I said ‘Are you kidding me?’”
He will be one of many NFL alumni present at the event being held on January 29 at Essex County’s Richard Codey Arena. Papale has done previous work with the Wounded Warrior Project, as well as paralyzed vets down in Virginia.
He, like many other former NFL players, have a strong and “weird” connection with the Warriors. Papale said NFL players relate to the military “in some sick way,” that will give this event a great response from NFL players past, present and future.
“Its going to be no problem what so ever to get my teammates up here, but there’s going to be a lot of NFL alums in the greater Essex county area of course for the Super Bowl,” Papale said. “I’m on the Alumni board so I’m going to encourage everyone from the alumni, and there’s thousands of us across the country, to participate.”
Papale and the NFL Alumni Association has informally teamed up with the Wounded Warrior Project to bring this very unique event to the New York/New Jersey area. However, its more than just that.
“I think that its regional that its here at the Essex County Codey Arena, but its national in its scope, who we’re going to benefit and who we’re going to support,” Papale said. “I kind of see it as a national event, tied in with the NFL couldn’t get any better than that.”
Tickets are currently on sale at the Codey Arena Box Office or by going to the Wounded Warrior Football Team’s website (www.wwaft.org).